Author: Maldoror
Disclaimer: The usual, Gundam Wing belongs to it's owners (Bandai, Sunset, and a whole host of others, none of which are me) and I'm not making any money off of them. Not a single peanut.
Rated R for language, lots of violence, sexual content
see chap. 1 for more notes

The Source Of All Things + Chapter 20
The Eye Of The Beholder

Trowa's senses touched the lines around him instinctively and they soothed him. He was in his bed, in the sanctuary. A warm fire crackled nearby. Quatre was by his side, rubbing his hand with a gentle thumb. Svale was sitting on the foot of the bed with - Trowa's senses informed him with quiet resignation - her hand slipped under the cover where she was groping his ankle, knee and toes a bit distractedly. They were talking in hushed voices but he was too tired to make out their words, and he sighed, wondering why his chest hurt.

...?

"- physical contact is still a must, but then it can lay dormant and near-invisible for - Eep!" Svale started and fell off the bed with a thump as Trowa shot up into a sitting position, his eyes wide as they fastened on a pale and startled Quatre. The healer dropped his hand instinctively, blue eyes wide.

"Fen- Duo- you shot me!" Trowa blurted. He only wanted to recap the events whose memories were hammering him like pile-drivers but he immediately caught his mistake as the pale face went rigid with pain. Quatre scrambled off the bed and Trowa, ignoring his aching chest and the fatigue welded to his bones, used his long arms to dive forward, tackle the healer back onto the bed and into his embrace. He squeezed the young man as hard as he could - which wasn't very much at that point - until he felt the body he was holding begin to relax a little.

"You're okay." He mumbled into Quatre's shoulder. "You're back. You- you are okay, right?" The lines were once more familiar and free though he was too weary to look closely.

"He's fine! It's you we need to check now you're awake." Svale snapped, scuttling up the bed to stand near Trowa. "Move out of the way, Rabbit!"

Quatre leaned back and his blonde hair was replaced by a close-up of Svale's nose, eyes and wrinkles, which was less appealing. Trowa tried to inch away, curl his lover back into his arms again, but a hand like a knotted tree root caught his chin and jerked his head down an inch to Svale's level. Her free hand patted him on the forehead, lifting his bangs, then dropped down the side of his face, felt his chest gently...

"Hmm..." She muttered, sending her unique blend of smells - old dust, fresh liquor - wafting over the shaman. Her hand dropped to his abdomen then patted his thigh. "Hmmmmmm..."

"Stop pretending you're still looking for something and get your hands off him, Svale." Quatre was hugging himself, still pale, but he managed a weak smile at the old witch.

"Just checking, Rabbit! The mark can be anywhere, you know! Trowa, my lad, I'm gonna have to ask you to strip and -"

Quatre's hand hooked her by the collar and peeled her off. "Duo would not be able to get near Trowa with any bad intentions, Svale, and you know it. He's not put any spell on him. Now get off."

Svale sniffed and looked offended but took a step back, relinquishing her spot to the healer again. Quatre took Trowa's hands, felt his pulse and looked into his eyes with clinical detachment.

"The blast damaged your lungs, broke four ribs and bruised your muscles badly." He said quietly. "I've healed the worst of it. You'll feel tired for a few days, but you should be fine."

"I feel fine now." Trowa lied. "How are you? What-what happened?"

Quatre sighed. Trowa looked at him more closely. His face was pale and he looked tired, and there was...something else, a distance, an aloofness that he didn't recognize. Or rather...it was like the quiet concentration Quatre used when healing serious wounds, mastering the weaving of flesh and mind and bone with deceptive ease. Except this was devoid of the compassion, warmth and joy that shone from him during those occasions. Oh those qualities were still there - Trowa had instinctively plunged below the surface, hunting the dysfunction along a well-known pattern - but they were now disassociated from-

Trowa started as a gentle hand covered his eyes, interrupting his reading. "Don't." The healer whispered gently. "You'll only make yourself sick if you push yourself when you're this tired."

Trowa couldn't disagree, his head had started spinning from that small effort. He leaned back against the pillows Quatre helped him settle against the headboard, while he wondered how the healer had known he was trying to read him.

"I'll tell you what happened - briefly - since you probably won't get to sleep until I do." Quatre said, smiling ruefully. "I'm afraid we don't know much, though. Duo-...do you remember-"

"I remember everything up until-" you shot me- "that is, I remember those men, and Duo and Heero fighting. And Fen before that." A shadow passed in front of Quatre's eyes. "What did Duo do to you?"

"I can't tell you much." Quatre said carefully. "He used some kind of spell on me."

"It's called a mark of control. Or a shihai no shirushi if you want to get technical and use its Old Tongue name." Svale interposed. "A very old type of spell. But still effective. Maxie was an excellent mage. He put the whammy on poor Rabbit in a record short time - what did you say, boy? Less than ten minutes?"

"At the drums festival." Trowa said abruptly, another memory coming back. "I knew - felt - there was something wrong."

"It normally takes hours of careful preparation and rituals - and the occasional torture session - for a mark of control to stick. Maxie did it in two minutes by scratching his nose as close as I can make out." Trowa assumed she was speaking metaphorically.

"It was like falling into an abyss." Quatre said quietly, eyes distant.

"And it was so well done it was invisible even to you, Trowa." Svale continued cheerfully with a hint of admiration in her tones. "It left Rabbit completely unaware of the interference until he was in a position to carry out the pre-programmed order the mark imposed, and then it activated to control and subdue him."

"But now?" Trowa said, looking at Quatre carefully. "Are you-"

"Duo lifted it before he disappeared." Quatre said, his voice neutral. "After he made me shoot you. I-"

"You didn't mean it, Quatre." Trowa interrupted quickly.

Blue eyes were candid as the healer shrugged. "I know." He said simply. "He lifted it and left. I don't know why. I...we spoke last night, briefly, but he didn’t say much...when he was gone, Heero and I drove the vardo to the planet-hopper those men used and called Howard to pick us up. That was twelve hours ago. We've not seen Duo since. We don’t know who he is or what he wanted. That's all."

"Oh..." Trowa tried to think but his mind felt gummed up and his chest throbbed. He refrained from examining it though, he didn't want to hurt Quatre by reminding him of the episode. The healer looked fine with it but Trowa knew his lover a bit better than that.

"Duo..." The shaman muttered, his hand rubbing Quatre's arm absently. "I can't believe it. All this time...and for what? Why did- " Trowa stiffened and his hands tightened on Quatre's arms as another memory emerged. "Zero? What happened with-..."

Quatre shrugged again and smiled reassuringly but behind his shoulder Svale - who was massaging Trowa's thigh purely for medicinal purposes - suddenly looked very grave and her eyes shot a warning. Trowa's heart flinched.

"We're not quite sure about that either." Quatre said, his eyes unreadable. Trowa managed to refrain from reading his lines. He felt too tired to cope with what he could find, and Svale's warning glance told him he'd find it. "I may be stuck with it. But it's okay, it's not doing anything right now, I managed to stabilize it. Don't worry about it. I want you to rest now. You need more sleep if you're going to get better." Firm but gentle hands pushed Trowa back against the pillows.

"Stay with me." Trowa said, catching Quatre’s fingers as he rose from the bed.

"Of course." The healer smiled gently, and disengaged his hand just long enough to toss Svale out of the bedroom before returning to curl up carefully next to Trowa. A soothing hand brushed the bangs from his face, while their fingers entwined. "Rest. Things will be clearer later." Quatre whispered.

Trowa's eyes closed, dragged down by fatigue that seemed to have seeped into every cell in his body; he let his skin concentrate on the trickle of Quatre's breath on his cheek, the hand in his, the other one gently caressing his forehead, his face, his shoulder...the warmth of the healer's body near his own. Things were quite clear now...he never wanted to move again.

---

Svale lost the good-natured pout she'd worn for Rabbit when he'd kicked her out. She stomped down the hallways of the sanctuary looking thoughtful.

Maxie...now there was a turnaround for the books. What was he up to? He was so young - his appearance was not an illusion, she could feel it in her bones. How could he have so much control, knowledge and power at his age? Why had he used it to attack Fen? Why had he used Quatre to attack Fen when it sounded like he would be able to take out the old man by himself? And why force zero onto Quatre?

And the other big question...what would Maxie be doing next? She knew he wasn't about to give up with-...whatever it was he was trying to use them for; not because of this little upset. Shinigami. Or rather, if Heero had been right, Shi No Kami, which was a whole lot scarier. The God Of Death. In the Old tongue of power no less. Shit. But he wasn't a god, she knew that. For one he didn’t need no source to be able to kick butt and take names, it appeared. And he needed Trowa, Quatre and Heero for something. Gods tended to be very independent (not to say stubborn pig-headed -...lightning bolt, remember, lightning bolt). How much had he been manipulating them from the start? Shinigami. He stole stuff. Powerful magical items. But nothing had vanished since he'd appeared...Quite the contrary...Svale's eyes narrowed and the gleam in them would have surprised those who didn't know her well. Quite the contrary, a lot of things had shown up in the sanctuary since he'd popped up out of nowhere. Did that mean...

Svale hesitated before her door. She should go and have another crack at the next mystery on her list. Heero. He'd apparently known something about Maxie. And he was a pretty big question mark himself. A pretty big question mark. Very pretty. But he didn’t trust her - if his habit of punching her through walls was any indication - so she doubted she'd get anything from him. He seemed to be attached to Quatre and Trowa though, who knew why...Once Trowa was up-

Svale froze in the doorway as the door swung open. Magic crackled reflexively along her staff, an indication of how worried and off-balance she was as she rarely displayed any power openly.

Someone had been in her room.

She approached the desk carefully. It was clear of the usual mess of scrolls and artefacts, they'd been unceremoniously dumped on her bed. There were three books open on the desktop instead. She hopped up on the high stool she used and looked at them carefully without touching them. Two of the books were hers. The Jishin book they'd recently found with the sanctuary key. A techno book on magnetic resonance and planetary factoids, which she had never bothered to throw away. And a book she’d never seen before, ancient in appearance. Her eyes widened slowly as she took in the pages on which they were open. They seemed unrelated - and she didn't know the new book well enough to guess what that one was getting at - but the very superposition of those open pages had sparked an idea in her head. Several ideas. Oh yes.

"Well done, Maxie." She said coldly. "I get it. Wanna come out and discuss this like a reasonable adult?"

Nothing happened for three seconds. Then she turned slowly as she felt a presence in the previously empty space behind her.

Duo was leaning against the door in his old casual leathers, a small smile on his face, relaxed as if he'd been there all along.

Svale looked at him warily.

Duo lifted a finger, put it slowly to his lips, then opened the door and slipped out noiselessly.

Svale hesitated, not sure she would be able to do much. But then Heero was in his room just down the hallway and she had a feeling he'd love a rematch with the Maxwell mystery. She bounced off the stool, hurled herself to the door, wrenched it open-

Wasn't very surprised, and even mildly relieved, when the hallway outside turned out to be empty...

She turned back to the books. A lot of studying ahead of her. But she had a better idea of where Maxie stood now. A cold, manipulative, secretive son of a bitch...but she was ready to bet they had a common enemy. Should she tell the others? She remembered the finger on his lips, enjoining her to secrecy. No, better say nothing. Emotions were high. She had a feeling the others would have a knee-jerk reaction to anything Duo-esque in the near future, and she didn't have time for tempers to cool and wiser heads to prevail. Which was of course exactly what he'd been aiming for. Damn and blast the brat! She was over five hundred years his senior, she shouldn't have to dance to his tune, and lie to her friends to boot! But she didn't have a choice.

She had a feeling that, for Maxie to have moved this openly, things with Jusan might be coming to a head a bit quicker than previously thought. The Scourge was still far away...but his minions could always rip Ether and get here in weeks. He might send an army ahead of him...or a herald! Now that would be a disaster.

She quickly bent to study the books.

---

There was no fuzzy amnesia to cushion the shock this time. Trowa woke confused, angry about Duo, in pain and very unhappy about the lack of Quatre anywhere near the bed.

It was nighttime again and the moon was shining into the room. He glanced around, feeling the tug of a familiar pattern.

Quatre was at the window, looking out. He was bare-chested, hugging himself as if he were cold. The moonlight bleached his hair white; it smoothed the drawn, tired features and smudged eyes into a vision of alabaster and pearl. His skin shone like nacre, a nipple casting a minute blue shadow near one of his crossed arms.

"Beautiful."

Exactly what Trowa had been thinking, but it was Quatre who said the word. His voice was soft, a whisper of reluctant wonder.

"What is?" Trowa said absently. He'd barely tensed to shove the covers back and get up to join his lover when Quatre said: "Don’t. You really shouldn't be moving for another twelve hours."

Trowa subsided, feeling slightly uneasy. The aloofness was still there. Quatre hadn't looked at him. He opened his mouth to ask if everything was alright.

"It is beautiful..." Quatre said. His hands rubbed his arms. "It all connects. It's like an echo of...of everything, contained in miniature. So detailed. So precise. Like clockwork. No...not that inorganic or logical...it flows like water set in stone...damn, now I know why you can never tell me what you see with that eye of yours." Quatre added over his shoulder with a small, rueful smile.

The shaman felt his soul grow cold. "Quatre? Are you using zero?"

"Using it? No." Quatre turned towards the window again.

"Good, because I really think-"

"I don't need to. It's already altered my perceptions enough that I can see the lines without it."

Trowa stared at his lover. The indifferent tone chilled him as much as the words.

"Don't worry." Quatre added absently. "Doing that much won't harm me."

"What will?" Trowa asked pointedly.

Quatre's eyes turned inward as if weighing what he should say. Trowa felt a jab of pain add itself to the worry.

"...I don't know. It’s a bit tricky. For me to be able to use zero properly, I need to let it alter me, my perceptions, my thought patterns. Otherwise I won't be able to handle it, to absorb its output without going- without getting distressed. But the ways it wants to change me...the alterations were tailored for a Jishin, and I don't have their power or capability." He was speaking calmly, as if discussing one of his patients. "If I can adapt to the changes then it will make controlling zero easier. Which is good because if I can't control it I might end up using it instinctively, and improperly, and that might-" He interrupted himself with a quick sideways glance at Trowa. "That might not be wise." He added carefully. Trowa found himself gripping the covers until his hands shook.

Quatre's voice was still curiously distant and thoughtful. "The problem of course is that each change zero wants to make in me might-...also lead to unfortunate results. If I had better control over zero I'd be able to make sure it only made the changes that can't harm me but of course to control zero that much it has to alter me considerably to do so...there's a certain irony there. Svale says the best is not to use it at all and just-"

"Yes. And we'll do our best to get rid of the damn thing." Trowa bit out.

Quatre's eyes were still on the moonlit scene. He neither agreed or disagreed.

"So...do you see the lines?" Trowa asked, trying to lighten the mood, reassure himself and Quatre. They'd sort this out. In the meantime he wanted to get his lover's mind off of spell-imposed changes and possible misfortunes, to concentrate on something less grim. "Can you see the moon's path? The witch's way? The flow of the dragon? Oh, you don't know which name go with which line, I guess. I..." Trowa surprised himself by managing a smile, as he found one small gem of consolation in this mess. "I can teach you to read the lines. If you want. I-"

"I see the Sanctuary." Quatre said. "I’m not surprised it gives you the occasional headache. It bends everything around it like a lead ball on a loose sheet. How can you stand being here, it must be painful for you."

Trowa smoothed the rumpled covers under his hands as they unclenched. 'For you?'

"Well it's only been this bad since Svale repaired it-"

"Duo repaired it." Quatre interrupted him gently. "Svale just used the key to activate it. But it was too damaged to-"

"How do you know that?!"

Quatre glanced at him in surprised and then smiled, his eyes crinkling. He looked more like himself. Blond curls rustled as he rubbed the back of his head. "Oh, it's...I can apparently recognize Duo's....fingerprints, I guess you-"

"Pattern." Trowa corrected him absently.

"Right, pattern, and he's left traces of himself all over the place. The underground passages are just steeped in them."

"What underground passages?"

"The very deep and complex ones that lead all the way down to the source." Quatre chuckled. "Svale is going to be very busy in the coming days. I should be able to show her how to get there - without using zero, relax. I just need to read the sanctuary lines until I find the entrance."

Quatre's eyes dropped to the floor. He put his hands behind his back and took a small step forward, balancing his weight at the hips. He took another step, his face smoothing into thoughtful lines. Moonlight and shadows played across his bare chest. Three small deliberate steps further, and he balanced and turned on one foot, then put his other foot down carefully. He looked like he was deep in thought and only partly concentrating on what he was doing.

"Duo has done a lot of work." He said absently, visibly following his own train of thought. He swayed a bit and put the next foot before the other, now heading towards the door. Two steps. "No wonder he was so tired and stressed out before we left. I think he was repairing the sanctuary and also gearing it for something..." He turned by rising on the balls of his feet and twisting thirty degrees, then stood swaying back and forth, knees locked, eyes on the floor and hands behind his back, like a little boy about to walk across stepping stones. "The whole point of all Duo did was to prepare for something. I'm pretty certain it's Jusan's arrival. But what he's preparing...I think he's Jusan's enemy...but we can't be sure. There's a chance he could be working for the Scourge and he infiltrated our group to see what Svale and the other Guardians would do to oppose him. We just don't know." He sighed with something like resignation and took two longer steps across unseen chasms in the floor. Trowa was staring at Quatre's feet, frowning.

"What are you doing?"

Quatre glanced up in surprise. The last steps had taken him close to the bed.

"Oh, just...following one of the patterns."

Trowa stared hard at the floor with both his eyes. "I can't see anything."

"It's one of the Sanctuary lines. It's...zero is jishin, so I guess it's more attuned to them than your shamanism is." Quatre grinned at his feet, though his eyes held little warmth, only clinical curiosity. "I swear these patterns are bizarre. I'm willing to bet a jishin couldn't think in a straight line if you ran him over with a steamroller. What a weird race..."

Though his face didn't change, Trowa felt suddenly sad. The lines Quatre thought were beautiful, he knew without having to ask...they'd been the ones generated by the Sanctuary, not the lines of nature and earth around it.

Quatre took another, more deliberate step towards the bed and looked down at the shaman. Trowa glanced up as he felt eyes running slowly over his lanky frame, his bare, bruised chest still, the lean fall of his hips and long legs.

"You're beautiful..." Quatre whispered.

Trowa smiled slightly and took a slim hand in his, pulling the healer to sit down on the side of the bed. Quatre's eyes never left the slow scrutiny of his body. His expression was the same as it was at the window though. A touch of wonder. Curiosity. Analytical interest. And a slight pain.

Trowa watched a slim finger extend slowly and touch his chest. It moved after a few seconds and trailed bit by bit across his sternum to a spot just below the left nipple. Quatre broke the line, dropped to another an inch below it, a slight frown marring the clear expression of his face.

Trowa's eyes and senses brushed over his own lines, sharing his lover's vision. The powerful straight line of his wheel of life, the backbone of his being, ran from chakra to chakra, from his crown to his foundation at the base of the spine. From each chakra, the lines of his tree of life branched out, running from his ganglia across to different organs. From its branches hung the delicate lace of his lymphatic and nervous systems, with little twists and knots at the more important pressure points. Other systems - magnetic, energetic, emotic, base and high - coiled and crisscrossed in compound geometries. Above it all lay the ghost of his aura, the complex pattern that linked his body and mind to the flow and ebb of nature around him. Sparkles and flashes of vectors ran from each of these systems to the other, connecting them. Each system changed with a twitch of muscle, an emotion, a cold breeze, a flux in the magnetic field. Each change cascaded on to the next system to which it was linked, and the next, and the next. A human being was a pool of lines and geometries, separate yet connected, rippling and throbbing with life. From this morass, a shaman could detach and follow certain patterns to match a purpose, once again changing the whole, an ever-ongoing, intricate dance.

Trowa watched as Quatre nibbled his lips in concentration and drew his finger up the branch he was tracing, down the main line joining two of Trowa's vital chakras. He then edged off following, to Trowa's surprise, a line that belonged to his magnetic flow. The slim finger traced that to the end - Trowa smiled slightly as it tickled his sides an inch below the ribs - then drew up along yet another set of lines, his lover's pressure point paths. Trowa felt a shiver along his body. That was an unusual combination, and not necessarily pleasure inducing, but then again, with that adorable pout of concentration on Quatre's face and his gentle fingers anywhere on his body...Quatre could be tapping Trowa's nose and the shaman would still feel his pants getting tighter as they were now. Apparently his body had had enough rest to recuperate certain functions.

Quatre lifted the finger but before Trowa could complain - and he most certainly would have - he put it back straight on Trowa's heart chakra and drew a brisk line down to the power chakra. There he hesitated. Trowa watched him curiously, his mind already playing with familiar parameters, the patterns that could be selected from the intricate mesh of the body, be traced with finger or mouth to stimulate and please; he'd used them many times on his lover. Quatre appeared unsure though; his finger was slower as it traced up the main line then followed a pressure point path, once more, across Trowa's lowest rib, until he reached the side, then back up again, across the twelfth branch of the life tree, towards the heart.

Quatre frowned and withdrew his hand; it dropped back into his lap slowly. His eyes remained fixed on Trowa's chest.

"Can you see them?" Trowa asked softly, then corrected himself. Obviously Quatre could see Trowa's lines. "Can you follow them to bring out a particular pattern? Without using zero." He added quickly.

Quatre gave a half shrug, looking unhappy. "I can see. Sort of. Actually I can see…certain useful points, and guess where the lines are from that, and how to use them."

"Useful points? You mean, acupuncture ganglia? You should be able to see some patterns, to heal the mind, or unblock energy lines, or for -" he wanted to add sexual stimulation, but hesitated as he saw Quatre's eyes, still fixed on his chest, harden, and the hands stiffen in his lap.

Quatre rose slowly and turned away. He paused, not quite looking at his lover.

"I see vital points, weaknesses and targets. Zero is a weapon. It's not concerned with your health or pleasure, Trowa. It's showing me how to kill you.

"You should rest now." He added as he returned to the same position by the window, arms crossed over his chest, eyes following lines Trowa could not see. The shaman stared, not knowing what to feel or think.

"Love...we have to get rid of this thing." He said slowly, and unexpectedly yawned. Damn, he was too tired to think about this, what with the last twenty-four hours- but no! They had to figure out how to- Trowa blinked rapidly and found his head sinking back into the pillow. They had to figure out how to get that spell from Quatre. That was....the top priority....He thought he felt something brush along his crown chakra. The lines around him danced briefly but stilled before he could catch them at it...damn sanctuary...playing with the order of things again...give him a headache...he'd just close his eyes for a few seconds while he thought of how to get zero away...from....

Quatre's eyes once more focused on the scenery outside as he heard his lover's breathing steady and deepen. He didn't look at Trowa. He rubbed his blood-stained hands against his arms again, though he knew they wouldn't warm him, and started scrutinizing the patterns before him again. He was studying defensive patterns, key areas that would allow him to manipulate the leylines and magnetic fields, places that would allow him to thrust back evil influences if anything braided decided to show up here again...he was still an amateur though, even Svale was better at this than he was. Zero whispered equations in his mind, trying to tell him about the subtle geometries of the sanctuary. The complexity of what zero showed him increased until he could no longer follow, and he felt it nudge him gently; it would only require a small change to his mind to go further. Only a small increase in his ability to perceive and manipulate patterns. So he could defend Trowa and himself...

No. That would be...dangerous. Probably.

Zero's equations changed as it sensed his concern regarding the mutations; they informed him of ways the spell could change Quatre’s mind so the healer could calculate the risk implied in changing him further. Quatre made a wry face at the catch and zero slinked back like a scolded puppy. For now.

He'd not use it. It would really be too risky.

His eyes narrowed at the way the moonlight tripped over coils and vectors outside.

Unless he needed to of course.

[chap. 19] [chap. 21] [back to Maldoror's fic]